Verizon Wireless' nascent Long Term Evolution network has just launched in 38 markets and 60 airports across the U.S., covering about 110 million people. That network will continue to expand over time. Right now, the only two devices that can access Verizon's LTE network are two laptop dongles, and neither works with Apple computers.
Verizon has been hinting that the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show will be huge with respect to LTE-related announcements. Verizon's CEO has gone on record saying that the company's first LTE smartphone will ship at some point during the first half of the year, probably during the first quarter. Will it be the Apple iPhone? It could be. Here are a few reasons that a Verizon-compatible Apple iPhone must include LTE.
Category Killer. An iPhone for Verizon Wireless with LTE baked in would be an instant smash hit. Analyst warnings about potential weak Verizon iPhone sales aside, an LTE-capable iPhone would be a monstrous win for both Verizon Wireless and for Apple. The demand for a Verizon iPhone is already strong enough, toss in LTE and you have a potent combination.
Corporate Superstar. Verizon Wireless is already popular with businesses and relied upon for enterprise-grade mobile communications. If Verizon Wireless wants to quickly ramp up an initial customer base for LTE, it has to start with the business pros who already use Verizon's mobile broadband products. Converting these users from 3G data cards to an LTE iPhone could drive enterprise sales.
Stay Ahead of the Pack. When the first iPhone debuted, it outpaced other smartphones by a mile in some, but not all, respects. With the rise of Android, Apple's position out in front has been severely challenged in terms of technology. If Apple wants to maintain (or regain, depending on your point of view) its leadership position, adopting LTE on America's biggest network would the way to do it. Other phone makers won't be far behind with LTE products. I'd say companies such as Samsung, Motorola and HTC will have LTE smartphones by April or May. Better for Apple to get out in front, rather than wait for the traditional June refresh period and be behind.
FaceTime Broadcasting. Right now, Apple's video chat software works only via Wi-Fi. AT&T hasn't set it up to work over its 3G network yet. An LTE iPhone would be a killer video streaming device. Being able to take advantage of LTE's raw speeds and reduced latency would bring phone-based video streaming to the next level.